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THE Gamble

Updated: May 23, 2019

"The story you are about to READ is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent."

Horse racing is all about the stories, the tales, the legends, the journey, with its successes and failures. 

In a world where sensationalizing, sex and blood, sells, feel good stories have no place in mainstream media, too boring. 

Misery loves company, a feel good story, if it isn't ours, we don't collectively care.

Thursday, December 20, 2018, with the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, NFL season winding down and playoffs looming, only racing insiders are looking at a Thursday card with more than intent of cashing a gamble. 

All racing aficionados dream of making a score, very few have truly tasted the thrill of victory, and most have fallen to the agony of defeat. 

A million dollar score or more is as fleeting as hitting the lottery. 

**Michael, we will call him, has hit the lottery a few times, shrewd, sharp man, with an excellent sense for the gamble. 

**Fictitious character names been added to protect the guilty parties.

That Thursday morning, Michael called his best friend, **Jimmy, he told him he wanted to claim a horse that afternoon. 

"I know this owner, doesn't own cheap horses,'' he told Jimmy, "what's he doing running this one for this tag.'' The owner in question is a gambler, he is a player, and so are Michael and Jimmy. 

Michael has done it before at a high level, and Jimmy follows his lead.

The two began to process the how, when and where of making it happen. The problem they live hundreds of miles away from the track.

To claim a horse, all monies have to be in to the paymaster of purses, at the track, prior to the race, in the correct account, to execute a claiming purchase. No checks, no credit cards, cash with the sales tax added, and you have to spell the name of the horse correctly.

In today's world there is a number of ways to deliver cash around the world within a few hours, it is said they are instant, but for those of us that have dealt in it, it is most often NOT. 

Michael deals in cash, Jimmy is a walk-in branch kind of guy, both are old school, online banking is not their thing, wouldn't know where to begin. 

To get the monies to the paymaster in time, they must wire the monies in, and if you haven't done it before, it's a daunting task. 

Jimmy is a check guy, he sends a check, through the post office. Jimmy is old school and will always be.

Michael would package it up in a magazine or something, or send it via courier or pony express. It's what he has always done.

Jimmy doesn't move too fast and to get to a branch it's a monumental task and ordeal, plus once he gets there where does he send it to? 

Jimmy wants to call a friend down in Florida for help, but Michael doesn't like it, ''don't tell nobody nothing,'' he whispers into the phone. "Don't tell someone what you're thinking, ever." I can picture Michael saying in his 'Michael Corleone' voice.

Michael calls in to the track paymaster and gets all the info for an ACH Wire. He was told the monies must be in before a specified time for the claim to be valid. 

Michael gives Jimmy all the information, Jimmy must hustle to the branch to get it done. Its past noon going on to 1 PM,Thursday, December 20, 2018.

Jimmy doesn't move too swift, slowed down by a back problem that has had him in pain for over a year. "I can't walk 50 feet without having to rest,'' he admitted lately.

This trip to the bank isn't going to be an easy one. 

it's almost 1:45 PM, when Jimmy walks into a bank branch and by the time he gets help from an associate its at least 2 PM. Post time is approximately 5 pm. Claims have to be in 18 minutes before listed, official post time, not post drag time. Approximately 4:40 is the deadline for the claim to be dropped, but monies would have to be in before that. 

There's no room for error. Jimmy must get it done NOW. 

The branch employee is more than helpful but he does explain to Jimmy that ACH Wires even though advertised as instant can vary from bank to bank. There is no guarantee the wire will be processed by the receiving bank immediately and could get processed and credited as late as the following morning. 

"I had that sickening feeling it wasn't going to get there,'' Jimmy admitted after the fact.

Monies sent from the branch.

Michael has done it before, claiming one for relatively nothing and horse ended up walking on water and becoming a millionaire. 

Jimmy has also turned water into wine, a $17K purchase as a yearling, earned over half a mil and sold for $1.2 mil. Both, Michael and Jimmy had experience turning peanuts into gold. 

Now the waiting game begins. 

Claim slip ready for delivery, but races are flying by with no confirmation on the package (ACH) being delivered. 

4 PM, closing in on the 9th race, no word. The monies left Jimmy's account two hours before, it is cutting it mighty close.

The 9th race is official, NO monies at the paymaster. 

The horse opens up at 2-1 off a 5-1 morning line and with the tracks penchant for post time drag, you have to drop the claim slip almost immediately after the prior race is declared official. 

Zero hour and no monies in the paymaster of purses. The claim, if dropped, would be voided. 

Well, maybe, that's a good thing, maybe it wasn't meant to be, all the things that go through a horseplayers mind is going through our two gamblers heads. 

A gamble is a gamble, whether its making a large wager or claiming a horse. Life is a gamble, Jimmy and Michael live it everyday.

It is 5:12 PM and finally the horses are at post. 

Jimmy and Michael's eyes water after a half mile, as Maximum Security is drawing away from the field to win by nine and three-quarter lengths. Michael was right.  

Maximum Security had no claims in for him and, of course, the monies arrived at the paymaster of purses the following morning. 

Jimmy and Michael followed the horse, they both, made a big score in the Florida Derby when Maximum Security won paying $11.60, instead of toasting their martini glasses on a well executed claiming coup, they have to console themselves with the possible score of the century, as they both bet Maximum Security in the future books at ungodly odds to win the Kentucky Derby.

What can go wrong? 

No wire had to be sent, and arrive on time, all Maximum Security had to do was win the Kentucky Derby.

It's a fool proof plan, didn't get the claim down but got the future book bets down after that maiden score. "He wasn't even listed with the books after his maiden win, we got great odds'' he told us.

Hundreds of thousands dollars are now in the balance, after future books bets are live, and of course, money wagered on the Derby itself. Michael and Jimmy watch the horses being loaded at the gate.

The next 24 minutes were the longest of of their gambling lives.

Maximum Security will forever live in infamy for the drama that unfolded in Kentucky Derby 145, but for Michael and Jimmy, it is a story they will talk about amongst them for the rest of their lives as they picked the horse that crossed the wire first in Kentucky Derby 145, on December 20, 2018.


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